The ex-Governor of Anambra State and senator representing Anambra Central Senatorial Zone, Dr. Chris Ngige reckons that the incumbent Governor Peter Obi played God by insisting that Anambra North Zone would produce his successor. Ngige makes it clear that Anambra stakeholders have never, at any time, sat and deliberated on zoning and rotation and has not in the past preclude any zone in any governorship election.
In this interview, the former Governor speaks about his interest in the November 16 governorship election, his past elections and experiences, his party, APC, as well as other national issues.
In the Anambra 2013 guber election, are you running? -- Well, your question is a categorical question; you want a "no" or a "yes". But I will disappoint you; I don't do "yes" or "no" in this type of situation.
I have to explain to you what the season is like. The issue at stake now is that governorship election will take place in Anambra State on November 16, 2013. We have always known that and we've always known that the incumbent tenure, that's Governor Peter Obi, will end on the 17th of March, 2014.
So we have known that, and by the end of 2012 I started being under pressure from people to consider coming for this particular election 2014. I tried to ward it off initially. But try as much as I could, the pressure continued.
So I have been, as it were in the last two to three months, doing some intense consultation with members of my family, political associates, friends, colleagues in the Senate and large spectrum of Anambrarians, including religious leaders.
And by last week I've concluded my consultations and whether I like it or not, the preponderance of views and preponderance of opinions and majority of the people consulted, very large majority, wants me to do a second missionary journey in Anambra state.
The reasons vary. Some say the present government has not achieve much; some say it tried but they have not measured up to the expectations. They cite the issue of unsafety or lack of security in the enclave called Anambra; they cite lack of infrastructure, rural development, rapid infrastructure development, lack of airport for air travellers, rail lines for land transport. Some even talked to me about the poor state of Medicare, which abounds everywhere.
Today as I speak to you, I'm meeting with the Nigeria Medical Association, Anambra State Chapter, and they want to consult me on this, but even with this consultation, I can tell you that it is becoming clearer to me everyday that I have no choice than to run in this election.
I think, with this explanation, you can now put together whether or not I will run. "Yes" or "no" is for you now to pick. We will do the running in two stages. I will inform my colleagues in Senate and then I will inform Anambrarians. You know I do have a constituency, which is the Senate and I respect that Hallowed Chamber and the occupants so much. So this is the situation with the Anambra 2013/2014.
Yes, I can deduce you shall be running. -- Yes, I will run.
Why did it take you this long to decide? -- It has to take me that long because the variables that are there, the mathematics of it, the possibility of winning it, the layout for your campaign and the logistics support are not things you can underrate if you are a very good politician.
I've seen a lot of people making noise and going all over the place and distributing money, sometimes at road junctions they stop and throw money up in the air and they carry about deadwood politicians and some whom I can refer to as urban gorillas. They don't have any grassroots appeal but in the urban areas of Abuja, Awka, Lagos you see them, they are now the people going about with some of this people.
So I look at them, I laugh because it means that the nitty-gritty of the journey, the dancing steps are not clear to them. The dance is coming and this dance will be for those who know the beat and how to step, how to do the stepping. For some of us, if we go into it, we go there with measured steps; any step we take means something, to add value to the journey, so it has to take me that long.
More so, when some people feel or tell me that they are my friends, that I have done wonderfully well at my first outing, that they are afraid that I cannot measure up again to that first outing, that the bar I put there has not been met by any of the occupants after me, and that they rather want me to leave the bar at that point instead of going now and maybe I will not cross the bar like others, that that is their own fear and they tell me, because or that reason, they prefer me to continue with Senate which is a place for statesmen with less hassles, less job risk and everything. And I tell them no, I'm a stoic; I like hard work, I'm one of those who believe that the reward for good work is more work.
So, I have seen certain things in Anambra State, which I can do to add value to the people. I have seen so many things that are still in my blueprint and yet they are unattended to in this state. Talk in terms of airport, for example. I was at the brink of starting to build my airport before I left. I had already commissioned a consultant about four days before my departure from Anambra seat of government. But today, no airport. The present government botched the idea, formed a committee, promised Anambra people an airport by the end of 2007 and later removed it to 2008, the committee was in place, later they said they will build it with Orient Petroleum as a partnership. Today, nobody is talking about it anymore. I don’t feel goodabout that.
Hospitals, I worked tirelessly to get Onitsha General Hospital accredited with my Commissioner for Health, Prof. Brian Adimma, who incidentally is also my classmate, so we knew what and what to do. I worked in Federal Ministry of Health and I left from the Directorate Cadre and in one of the beats in the Directorate Cadre I was supervising Nigeria Medical and Dental Council. I was the supervisor, so I know what and what that can be done to get a hospital accredited. So am not pleased that after Onitsha General Hospital, seven and half years, none has been accredited.
Then the area of education, the tertiary education in Anambra State, when I came our university at Uli had no accreditation for their courses. I put action in motion and the National University Commission came for their accreditation and by the time I left here, I had done accreditation and gotten accreditation for 35 courses out of the 36 that we presented, including more and a partial accreditation for, I think either music or one of those liberal arts, that is the 36th. But today, I hear, the lecturers call me and tell me they have lost accreditation – those ones I gathered for them. As a matter of fact, I hear that about 22 accreditations have been lost, in courses that are very dear to my heart and I don't feel good.
This is apart from the fact that in my own blueprint, which I had when I came here as a governor, a blueprint is your work plan, I had only done about 23 per cent of it. I go to that my blueprint I look at what the present government has done, they have only done seven per cent. So together, my blueprint has been 30 per cent done. I don't blame the present government because it is not their own blueprint; it's not their work plan, even if when they see it they might not know how to approach it in execution. Even my work plan on road, when they saw it, they didn't use it. They started using it during their second tenure and even at that, they couldn't do my roads to my specifications and my standard and the quality needed. I was doing anti-erosion roads because Anambra is an erosion-prone area.
So you cannot see, any road done by Ngige administration that does not have enough drains to collect water and with collecting and channeling the water, the roads get dry and you don't have the roads giving way after some years. Most of my roads are 10 years now, some nine years, some eight, but you cannot see potholes on them. They are still firm because of the degree of supervision we gave those contractors, even though I had major reputable contractors, RCC, Setraco, Nigercat and Inter Bau, but you must supervise them well.
So I am not happy that those blueprints of mine have not been fulfilled, particularly our blueprint on agriculture and agro-base industries. So I intend to us a method of carrot and stick to attack the issue of insecurity in Anambra state. You take the carrot and eat if you are amenable to what we suggest, that you come out from the bad ways, be a good citizen and join us, we provide job that will enable you feed your family, feed yourself, have a decent live, but use the stick too if you refuse and decide that, that is the path you must take forever, we will flog you. That is what I want to do.
For those who don't understand and said that I have set a bar, a high jump, that I have jumped six feet 10 or seven feet or 10 feet and that if I now go again I will not be able to jump that 10 feet, I laugh, shake my head because it means they do not have access to my blueprint, which is true of course. It is the man who designed a blueprint that will know how and where it can be made operational. So I am confident, if I go back there, that I will put smiles on the faces of Anambrarians. My only drawback is my colleagues in the Senate, they will miss me and I will miss them and I really enjoy the Senate and the legislative work there.
Now, the last time you contested, you lost to the incumbent Governor. What is giving you the hope that you will win this time around? -- I did not lose, I did not lose to the incumbent Governor.
If you remember, I was and I'm still in the Election Petition Tribunal. A panel came here, Justice Abariya and left, another panel of Justice Damulak of the Plateau State Judiciary came again and they were still on the chase before they were dissolved when some things that were abnormal began to happen. So they got dissolved. The then President, Court of Appeal, not former because he is still President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Salami, was to give us panel but he didn't do that before he had his own troubles and had to vacate his seat. His new successors have always been in acting capacity and have not been too keen to put up a panel for us and we were embroiled in a new election for the Senate in 2011, just nearly one year after that other election.
So we decided to fight this Senate election first and when we finished we can come back. But one thing led to the other, from the Senate we went to Election Tribunal on my case. Prof. Dora Akunyili took me to the tribunal and we spent another half-a-year there. That six months saw us into late 2012 and there was really no time to go and start fanning up that case.
So I decided to face the job in the Senate for a while and as we are doing that, this other election is now coming up. From all indications, we have to abort that other case.
We did not lose the election, we querried that INEC has no right to announce Obi winner because Obi did not satisfy the mandatory requirement of winning 25 per cent of votes in two-thirds of all the local governments in Anambra state, two-third of the local governments is 14 and he had 25 per cent in 13 local governments and that’s why we went to the Tribunal.
In the present election, there has been much noise about Anambra North Senatorial zone producing the next governor and Governor Obi has been championing it. Do you think you have a chance going by this development? -- Well, the truth of the matter is that the incumbent is saying that he wants Anambra North. You can then ask some pertinent questions.
Has there been any election in Anambra State that the political gladiators from Anambra North did not participate in? The answer is capital, no. Starting from 1999, gladiators from that side like Senator Joy Emodi battled Mbadinuju in the elections; you had Nnamdi Ozobia, the Ede of Onitsha, Mike Areh he ran for governorship in 1999.
So, in Central, we had people who ran too in 1999 but Mbadinuju from the South took it. From Central you had Sam Okechukwu, Aneze Chinwuba and Agunwa Anaekwe. And from the South you had Frank Oramulu, the Labour Leader; Okechukwu Odunze, so many of them. In 2003, ditto. All of them came out again, Okechukwu Odunze, Frank Oramulu, Joy Emodi came out for a little while and went back, Ede came out and others. I came from Central, Peter Obi came from Central, Ajulu Uzodike, Obinna Uzoh, Mbadinuju from South and we battled, I got the ticket and later on when the baton fail down, Peter Obi, from Central, also took it. That is how it is.
In 2007 when they say Peter Obi's tenure had ended, you had many people from the North – Dr. Obiogbolu, Okechukwu Odunze, Mike Areh, Anibata, Mike Okoye and others. So there has not been any election they did not participate or struggled for.
Two, we have never sat down as politicians and stakeholders from Anambra State to say this power will rotate in this manner in the zones. Never. Not even at the PDP level when I was in PDP; not even in other party's levels, none because Anambra has always been free. In 2007, Andy Uba got it and became Governor for 17 days, the court sacked him and Peter Obi came back when the Supreme Court pronounced that his tenure was not ended. Same goes for 2010 when we contested – Soludo South, Obinna Uzoh, so many people, I even thought I was disqualified in 2007 by INEC, I was barred. But in 2010, everybody, including Andy Uba, came back again and all the people from the North came.
So, the point I am making is that, we never sat down to debate and it will be preposterous for anyone now to start proposing it – you don't change the goalpost in a match midway or half way, you can't do that. So the Governor, from all indications, is not doing that as a patriot or a statesman, he is doing it for reasons best known to him and the reasons are not far fetched. The fact is that he wants to preclude Senator Dr. Chris Ngige from vying, Senator Andy Uba from vying and maybe Prof. Soludo from vying. These are the people, the governor doesn't want to hear their names as possible successors. But he is not God; it's only God that will say who will succeed him. Even we, like me now, I have made up my mind that am going to run. It is God who will determine my fate; it's not in man's hand. So, going to be waging this war, he is trying to play God, but he is not.
More importantly, we have never, in Anambra State, regarded ourselves as one group being superior to another or another group being the weakling. The history of actions in this state lays credence to what I am telling you. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe ruled this place as Premier. When he left for Lagos in 1960 to become Governor General, he handed over to M.I Okpara the mantle of leadership of NCNC and Eastern Region as Premier.
In 1967, when the war started, Ukpabi Asika was made Sole Administrator of East Central State, he was in the Supreme Military Council and when the war ended he became full Sole Administrator. He ruled unfettered in this part of the world to the extend that he was able to appoint the Chief Justice from Onitsha and he Ukpabi Asika was from Onitsha. He appointed two Commissioners in East Central states cabinet from Onitsha, nobody queried, nobody said anything. That is to show you what I mean that we don't segregate or regard any other person as superior or inferior; nobody queried it.
And when our brother, Chuba Okadigbo, decided to run for Senate, he got the Senate seat, wants to become the Senate President but Obasanjo thwarted it with AD Senators supporting a handful of PDP senators to make Evans Enwerem Senate President. And when Evans Enwerem fell from the thrown, the Anambra senators were asked to produce a replacement, the three senators we had then, senators Mike Ajaegboe, Okadigbo and Nnamdi Erobuna came to meet us in our caucus. I was the Assistant National Secretary of the PDP. They met us at the caucus and we were asking them who will replace Enwerem, they should go and find somebody, they went out and came back in less than one minute and said Chuba Okadigbo should take over. Chuba Okadigbo is from Oyi Local Government of Anambra State in the North, number three position, the number three man in the country. Ukpabi Asika from Onitsha, in the North, Nnamdi Azikiwe, the Rt. Hon. from Onitsha in the North the revered Nnamdi Azikiwe.
So we have never talked about marginalization, even the present dispensations from Yar'Adua, the ministers have been coming from the north. John Emeka, Transport Minister from Anambra West, Stella Odua is from Ogbaru, North, we have never queried their credentials. So why did they now query the credentials or other people and the governor because he wants to preclude some people, he wants to play God now say, 'I decree.' We are saying to him that we un-decree this decree; it will not stand. In fact, his posture has embolden a lot of us, especially me, to contest this election, because we don’t want anointing anymore in this area. Let him not anoint; if he wants to anoint, let him go to his family to anoint people; let them take over his private business, not the government of state.
I have nothing personal against the governor, but when he does something that is not proper, I'll tell him and I should be able to say so. I'm an elder statesman in this state; I'm the young man too in this state. I fit into any cadre you call me in this state. So I should be able to speak the truth; it's only the truth than can set the people free.
What lessons did you learnt from your experience in the race with Obi now that he is bent on installing his successor? -- Which of the races? I did the governorship race with him, I did the Senate race with him, even though Dora Akunyili was in forefront, it was the government machinery that fought me.
No, no no, the lessons I learnt in the 2010 governorship and the Senate race, I will not leak it to you because we are going into a fresh combat. If I reveal them to you, you publish them and they will go and redesign their own war strategy. A good general doesn’t say where and how he defeated his opponent in a war that is continuous. You don't even show your arsenal, they will go and destroy it before the war starts or before the major battle, and you will be handicapped. So for now, I want to keep them to myself, but I learnt a lot about their style and I know their style and they know I know.
What hope do you have in APC? -- With that party we have at least a semblance of pure democracy, where you have two major parties striking themselves – PDP and APC. It will make for a very healthy competition and even Mr. President, Jonathan said he was happy about that, that it enthrone competition, that there is nothing that brings out the best than free and fair contest. So we are going to do contest with them, with PDP and others, APGA here in the governorship election and if by the grace of God they allow the council election to hold in October, that will be the first major test.